Before we start, I want you to give yourself a big hug. Go on, wrap your arms around yourself and squeeze. That feels good doesn't it? Smile and take a deep breath.
I'm publishing this article in February - the month of love - to focus on how we think about our behaviour. Some kind words and self-love will improve our internal reaction to how we behave, building calm and increasing our inner happiness.
Fundamental to any change in how we eat is how we think about, and talk to ourselves. A problematic relationship with food such a yo-yo dieting, overeating, daily weighing ourselves or obsessive tracking and counting, can all create a rollercoaster of emotional and psychological ups and downs. So we need to develop a way to help ourselves through these experiences. A way which is kind and understanding.
Giving ourselves this strong and supportive psychological platform to make changes to our eating is key to long-term success. Its not just about weight loss of course, it's about stability and nutritional health. We need to be able to find the courage, strength, positivity and trust to both start and maintain the change. That only comes from a positive platform of thinking.
So, how do you talk to yourself? For example, when you you discover you haven't lost the weight either you (or someone else) expects you to? What about when you fall off the dieting wagon and blow the day, or when you eat something which you think is bad or not allowed. What do you say to yourself in these situations? Do you use words like 'failure', useless', 'too fat' or 'hopeless'. Very often we are extremely unkind, unempathetic and perfectionist in relation to ourselves. Using words we would never to say to someone else. But this kind of internal dialogue just makes us feel worse, and if low self-esteem is a driver for emotional eating then we're in a never-ending cycle.
Our reflections on past behaviours, long or short term can dominate and negatively impact our positivity to move forward. They are like heavy weights on our feet, constantly wanting to drag us back into that cycle of behaviour that feels familiar. Judgement and self-criticism is what's holding you back, nothing else.
Whatever and however you ate yesterday or last week does NOT matter one little bit. You need to work to understand WHY you behaved around food in the way you did and accept it, allow the pain to register but then you have to move on. It can be hard to do it on your own, but it is important. Accepting the behaviour is crucial - say to yourself that it's done, finished, and gone.
Talk to yourself as if you were someone else. Be kind, be empathetic, show some compassion and understanding of what's gone before. Try to build some love for yourself and decide that you are worth the effort, AND that your eating does not need to define you.
Tips to build self-love thinking into your relationship with food.
Let go of past behaviours. "It's OK, I understand why I behaved like that in the past. It wasn't wrong, it just isn't how I want to behave now". Accept that it was difficult and allow yourself to process that.
Keep all eating in perspective. "It's just a biscuit, it will not make me fat and I really fancy it." Try for a balance of eating which gives flexibility around all foods and what you need to feel satisfied.
Focus on forward-thinking behavioural goals. "I'm going to seek to nourish and look after my body in the best way I can." And "The best way I can" means that you definitely don't have to be perfect.
Practice mindfulness to make more of your compassion inwards. Take time out for yourself to reflect on a wider perspective of your life. Gratitude for all your positive strengths and the world you have around you. You show compassion to other people and to animals at difficult moments, so it's time to show some to yourself.
So, put a smile on, love yourself more today than you did yesterday and if you find yourself beating yourself up over your eating remember this ABC:
Acceptance Balance Compassion
If you need any help working through any of your personal challenges with anything in this article, then please get in touch. xx